Final day to buy share in Shouldham pub

The Save Our King's Arms Appeal reaches the half way point - From left, John McGorty and Phill Harri

The Save Our King's Arms Appeal reaches the half way point - From left, John McGorty and Phill Harris. Picture: Matthew Usher. - Credit: Matthew Usher

The campaign to save a popular village pub today reaches a critical phase, with the deadline for people to buy shares in the venue just hours away.

A decision is also set to be made today on whether an application by organisers of the Save Our King's Arms (SOKA) campaign in Shouldham for a grant which will match whatever they raise from selling shares – described as crucial to the campaign's success – has got through to the next stage.

In what is set to be a pivotal day which will determine the future of the 13th-century pub, SOKA organisers will be encouraging people to who have not yet bought shares to do so by midnight tonight.

They believe they have raised about £120,000 so far but hope to reach about £150,000 by the end of the day, thereby increasing the value of the match-funded grant and giving them enough money to both buy and renovate the pub. SOKA secretary Phil Harriss, who visited markets in Downham Market and Swaffham this weekend to hand out leaflets about the campaign in a last-minute effort to sell shares, encouraged those who had not already bought a stake to do so by the deadline.

'More cheques keep coming in by the hour,' said Mr Harriss, who pointed out that SOKA has sold about £20,000 in a matter of days as the deadline for the share issue campaign gets nearer.

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'I was out in Downham Market and Swaffham over the weekend and lots of people had heard about the campaign and were interested to talk about what we're doing.

'A very encouraging amount of people knew about the campaign and were willing to put their hands in their pockets. They don't want this happening to our pubs.'

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John McGourty, SOKA chairman, said: 'I think other community pub campaigns have found that people often delay until the last minute before buying shares. Hopefully, it will be the same with Shouldham.'

One particular advantage shareholders will have is that they will each qualify for a 50pc tax relief on their investment thanks to the government's Seed Enterprise Investment Scheme.

That means those buying shares for £100, for example, will be able to claim £50 back from the taxman – but still own £100. The maximum amount of shares any one person can buy is £20,000.

With the match-funded grant, Mr Harriss said a stake costing £50 or £100 could be in actual fact be worth a great deal more to the pub.

SOKA started to sell shares in the King's Arms in August as a way of raising the current £260,000 asking price, with the aim of having enough money left over to renovate it.

Shouldham, which once boasted six pubs, lost its final watering hole in June 2012 when the previous tenants of the King's Arms were unable to keep up with rent payments.

The villagers said the shock of losing their last pub galvanised them into action, with a plan to buy the venue from landlord Punch Taverns and reopen it as a community-run pub.

If it is successful, profits will be shared between residents and good causes in the community.

The campaign has attracted widespread support, not just from Shouldham but surrounding areas such as Marham and Downham Market and places further away, such as Texas, Hong Kong and Canada.

Mr Harriss said one woman from Belgium has even given a substantial sum during the campaign. 'We're hoping to meet her when we reopen the pub and are fascinated to learn how she heard of us,' he said.

The EDP has also backed the campaign, with editor Nigel Pickover hosting a quiz at Colts Hall Barn earlier this month to raise money for the cause.

Writing on the SOKA website, Mr Harriss said: 'We're not counting our chickens yet. The coming week is crucial to our campaign.

'If you know friends, relatives or colleagues who want to buy shares, please remind them of the deadline.'

To buy shares, visit the website and follow the links to the Microgenius site, where people can buy shares online.

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